Atom Egoyan’s The Captive: A Review by Nate Hill


Atom Egoyan’s The Captive didn’t do well with critics, audiences and hasn’t really grown on them since, effectively getting left behind from people’s memory. I was mesmerized the first time I saw it, even more drawn in the next, and still can’t get it out of my head. Egoyan made the unpopular choice to set these events completely out of order, and not in a way that ever seems to have a purpose. It’s disorientating and frustrating, but perpetuates the chilly, inaccessible atmosphere that is already laid over the story. Perhaps this was Egoyan’s intent, to further cloud over comprehension and cause uneasiness among viewers, or he was just tinkering around with his tools. You’d have to ask the guy. Either way, it’s the main reason the film wasn’t received well, and ironically enough, the main reason I love it so much. I tend to have this affinity for qualities in film that are hated by many and misunderstood no end (maybe I’m an unconscious contrarian, who knows). For me, this film works achingly well, a haunting story told with a near European style of acting from everyone across the board, and a fractured narrative that takes a few tries to fully grasp. It also contains one of the single most gut wrenching and emotionally gripping scenes of the last decade, which I’ll only briefly mention, as to not give anything away. The story is blindingly simple: a young girl disappears from her fathers car at a remote truck stop in rural Ontario, while he is gone for but a minute to pick up food. The father (Ryan Reynolds) and mother (Mireille Einos) a devastated, and never give up hope even years later. Two cops work the case: hothead Scott Speedman and more intuitive Rosario Dawson, unable to come up with answers or provide closure for the couple. The girl was in fact taken by an underground and very carefully sophisticated ring of serial pedophiles, and now years later, she is in her mid teens and being eerily watched over by Mika (Kevin Durand in a performance of bottled up malice), an operative in this sick circus, while her parents still brokenly search for any clues. Reynolds rattles with desperation and is excellent, Einos displays the cold heartbreak exceedingly well and no one can make your skin crawl like Durand, who is actually the most fascinating in a role that could have easily devolved into monstrous cliches. There’s something very disconcerting about the way Alexia Fast plays the older version of the daughter too. She’s no doubt been through horrors, but in her is a serene calm that is highly more disturbing than if she was in mental hysterics. That offset in mood is part of what makes the film so great too; there’s a constant snowy blanket over intentions and resolution, made all the more restless by the fact that the shards of this decade long tragedy are presented out of order. A sequence where Durand orchestrates a meeting between Reynolds and his daughter plays with our expectations and tightens the grip on our hearts along with that of our hands on our seats, a tension filled cathartic story beat acted to perfection by Reynolds and Fast, and the penultimate moment to showcase what a strange and bewitching film this is. You’re free to take the side of the masses on this one and see it from a negative perspective, and if it genuinely doesn’t work for you, then fair enough. But try to go in a blank slate so that it can at least have a chance to work its magic on you, because it’s got quite a spell to cast, one which I’m still under. Severely overlooked stuff. 


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